#ElonGrad 2022 spotlight: Grace Holmes, exercise science

In this series, Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences is shining the spotlight on distinguished members of the Class of 2022 from a wide array of disciplines.

headshot of Grace Holmes '22Elon College Fellow Grace Holmes ’22 is the recipient of the Department of Exercise Science’s 2022 Outstanding Senior Research Award for her examination of college students’ sleep habits and work with a National Institutes of Health-funded study into metabolic changes in the transition from high school to college.

She also is a member of Kappa Omicron Nu honor society and Omicron Delta Kappa leadership society and was named to the Kernodle Center for Civic Life Service Honor Roll.

How did you choose your exercise science major?

I have always known that I wanted to go into medicine and I chose exercise science because I really wanted to focus on working directly with people in clinical settings. The exercise science department has given me so many opportunities to engage with community members and has also helped me to view healthcare from many different perspectives.

Tell us more about your undergraduate research.

I participated in two undergraduate research projects. The first was my own project designed and completed with the guidance of my mentor, Dr. Simon Higgins. This project examined the relationship between sleep and body composition in college students. I chose this topic because sleep is so multifaceted and often overlooked in the college population, and I wanted to provide resources to my peers to improve their overall well-being. I was able to present this research at the South East American College of Sports Medicine Conference in Greenville, S.C. this past February.

I also worked with Dr. Higgins on a NIH-funded research project looking at metabolic health in the transition from high school to college. On this grant I was able to assist with data collection as well as take a leadership role as communications coordinator. This allowed me to learn more about the planning and processing behind a large research project and gave me the opportunity to mentor the younger lab students.

How did your professors in the exercise science program help you achieve your goals at Elon?

My research mentor Dr. Higgins helped me grow significantly as a student. He has worked closely with me since my freshman year and has constantly pushed me to be the best version of myself. Dr. Higgins gave me the freedom to pursue the topics I wanted and was always there to offer help and guidance when needed. Through working with Dr. Higgins, I feel that I have grown my confidence in both myself and my abilities. He has been a constant source of support for me during my four years at Elon.

Also my advisor, Dr. Caroline Ketcham, has been a significant part of my Elon experience. As a first-year student, I had my whole life planned out and had no intention of veering from that plan. Dr. Ketcham helped me realize that there was no rush to get to my future; medical school and work would always be there. She taught me that the journey and the experiences that will lead me to my future are so important. Dr. Ketcham has helped me through so many seasons of my life and always provided a safe space to grow, question and explore.

What are your plans after graduation?

I am taking a gap year before applying to medical school. During my gap year I will be working at Elon in the Year of Service Graduate Fellowship, where I will be working in the Cone Health system at Alamance Regional Medical Center.

As you reflect on your undergraduate years, what’s been most valuable to you?

Undergraduate research has been a significant part of my time at Elon. Throughout the process I gained critical thinking skills and learned how to ask and refine research questions. I have built confidence in data collection techniques and also in my ability to tackle a complex project, understand the results and apply them to real life. I learned how to work independently and collaboratively and developed a sense of competence and self-knowledge, but also learned when to ask for help. Through learning measures such as EKG’s and blood draws, I was able to gain skills and knowledge that will translate beyond the undergraduate world and will aid me in my ability to succeed in graduate school.

Most importantly, I value the connections I was able to make through research. As a research student in the exercise science department, I had the opportunity to attend journal clubs and professional development sessions that connected me to other student researchers. Having other students to bounce ideas off of and share hardships with has resulted in several new friendships. I have also had the ability to build relationships with several professors within the department, all of whom have been extremely helpful in preparing me for my future goals.

What advice would you give future students?

There are so many opportunities available to you at Elon. Everyone truly cares about you and your success, don’t be afraid to reach out to professors and make connections!